Richard Graham admits there will be a changing of the guard at the Queensland Reds next season without Quade Cooper, Will Genia and James Horwill.
The Reds confirmed a 37-man squad on Tuesday for next year’s Super Rugby campaign and it is shorn of Queensland’s most recognisable names.
With Cooper, Genia and Horwill all plying their trade in Europe, the injury-plagued James O’Connor having moved to France for personal reasons and new signing Kane Douglas likely out for the season with injury, on face value there is little to be excited about.
But Graham and the Reds have faith in what’s left and how it will combine with a new crop of unheralded youngsters, who have come through the Queensland Rugby Union ranks and are ready to make names for themselves.
“It’s a changing of the guard across Australian rugby, even world rugby,” Graham said.
“That’s a natural cycle after a World Cup, that guys go.
“But at the same time we’ve got a lot of experience here – (James) Slipper, (Rob) Simmons, (Saia) Fainga’a, (Liam) Gill, (Jake) Schatz – we’d still sit at over 1000 Super Rugby caps.
“We need to find the right balance in terms of selection when we get to the season and we need to train well throughout the pre-season to make sure we create an intensity that prepares the younger and the newer guys for Super Rugby.”
The Reds have two more vacancies in their squad and are keeping an eye out for any experienced players to add to perhaps their most vulnerable area – the halves.
Nick Frisby and Jake McIntyre will get first crack at establishing themselves as Queensland’s first-choice playmakers and new attack coach Matt O’Connor concedes there will be a jarring transition from the days of Genia and Cooper.
“They’re world class players. There’s going to be a void,” O’Connor said.
“There’s a lot of blokes in our group who haven’t played that much Super Rugby.
“We’re going to have to work out what works for them and what works for the group as quick as we can.”